Could Wort Serve as a Viable Soil Amendment?

Project Overview

FNC16-1061
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2016: $7,452.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2018
Grant Recipient: Carriage House Farm
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Richard Stewart
Carriage House Farm

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Vegetables: peppers
  • Additional Plants: herbs

Practices

  • Animal Production: manure management, mineral supplements, watering systems
  • Crop Production: irrigation, municipal wastes, application rate management, tissue analysis
  • Education and Training: demonstration, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, feasibility study
  • Soil Management: composting, organic matter, nutrient mineralization, soil chemistry, soil microbiology, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: infrastructure analysis, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, urban/rural integration

    Proposal summary:

    Problem

    The SARE grant will enable Carriage House to run a soil amendment test on poor soils. The test site will be a 37- acre section of Carriage House Farm that is being converted from an old gravel pit into tillable land. The site includes a 20-acre bottom with 17-acres of slope – the property is square and the bottom is 70-feet lower than the surrounding countryside. The soil at the bottom is comprised of clay, pulverized shale, gravel and sand.

    The site receives full sun, and the soil at the bottom is 60 feet below the typical topsoil that is present on the rest of the property. Already, there are hundreds of grape vines planted on the side walls surrounding the main plot, along with nearly 50 pear trees along the outer perimeter.

    The soil amendment tested will be wort, which addresses another problem. Traditionally, the brewer’s spent grain and yeasts have been used in diverse settings, but the liquid waste of breweries has been overlooked. Basically, more wort is produced than is needed by a brewer for a production run of beer – depending on size, breweries can produce hundreds of gallons of waste wort per week. Breweries currently pay a premium for disposal via existing metropolitan sewage systems.

    Clearly the current model is not economically or environmentally feasible; it exacerbates the wear on existing infrastructure, hobbles growing craft breweries and wastes what could prove to be a key component of land reclamation and high-yield crop growth.

    Solution

    The solution to poor soil and wasted wort is to use the wort as a soil amendment. To test the hypothesis, Carriage House will collect and test wort weekly, grow an herb and sweet peppers in soil tubes with four different soil types: (1) compost, (2) soil from the gravel pit, (3) stray/hay, and (4) sawdust. The goal is to test the soil amendment of varying wort-water ratios on harvests in each test plot. In an attachment that was uploaded as one of the letters of support, the four soils are illustrated with the five wort and water combinations.

    Carriage House will test for the nutritional content of soil pre- and post-tests of the water treatments. Its team will also measures samples of the wort weekly to understand what nutrients were fed to the plants and soil. Finally, the team will sample the yield of basil and sweet peppers from each tube of soil, measuring total yield weights, nutrient density of plants with soil data comparison, and a brix test of the peppers.

    What we will measure:
    Soil (Spectrum Analytic) (Before and After):

    What it will measure: Soil pH, Buffer pH (when needed) , Organic Matter, Available Phosphorus , Exchangable Potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, Boron, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Sulfur and Zinc, Cation Exchange Capacity(CEC), Percent Base Saturation of Cation Elements

    Liquid Manure (Spectrum Analytic) (this is a more complete test than a liquid fertilizer test that will ONLY test for N, P, K)

    What it will measure: Moisture, Nitrogen (total), Nitrogen (Ammonium), Nitrogen (Organic), Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Sulfur, Boron, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Zinc, Aluminum, Sodium

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Test whether or not wort could easily and effectively be employed to convert low-yield, practically infertile soil to profitability in a sustainable and socially responsible way.
    2. Make use of wasted wort that would otherwise be sent to metropolitan sewage systems, at a cost to brewers and the environment.
    3. Share results through local food education initiatives, magazine article, university extension services, and social media. 
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.